Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Joseph Waters, Washington University (Olin)

Joseph Waters

Washington University in St Louis, Olin Business School

“Loves to learn, build meaningful friendships, and challenge myself and others.”

Hometown: Quincy, Illinois

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I have moved six times in the past six years.

Undergraduate School and Major:  University of Illinois, Spanish Major

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:  US Army, Operations Officer

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you?  I was not actually set on Olin until after the application interview. My interviewer, Mark Schlafly, really hit home the community feeling at Olin. Other schools felt like they were trying to sell to me or were impersonal. I also love St. Louis, and my hometown is two hours from school to boot.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why?  Warm-hearted: Everyone I talk with is so friendly and encouraging, which bodes well since it is the start of the semester. The environment this creates reinforces my optimism for the future of business.

What club or activity excites you most at this school?  The Olin Veterans Association is the most exciting for me because it provides great networking opportunities. As an added benefit, the community aspect of interacting with fellow service members helps the transition from military life to civilian life. I also look forward to the Olin Cares group and getting the opportunity to volunteer.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  I spent some time (15 months) as a commander in Qatar. During that period, I underwent some incredible character growth while living in a new culture where not everyone spoke my native tongue. Overseeing port operations for the military in Qatar led to many problems. My biggest accomplishment would be the relationships I built that allowed me to streamline the operations we conducted. In Qatar, relationships carry more weight than any law or regulation which is incredibly difficult to do without a common language. I spent many days drinking tea and sharing time with Qatari, Indian, Pakistani and Filipino administrators and workers. The payoff was less red tape, smoother operation, and a proactive approach to problem solving.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career?  I have always been interested in pursuing an MBA. I want to set myself up for success when I leave the military, and I thought I would have to pursue an online degree. When the Army selected me for a special graduate school program, I knew exactly what degree I would seek.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?  I really did not feel that the questions were challenging, but that was due to my interviewer putting me at ease. I felt very comfortable answering the questions and it felt like a conversation, not an interview. I am not saying I didn’t have to think, but it didn’t feel like a challenge.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? After researching school program rankings, the school location was my next screening criteria. Certain states have certain cultures, and closeness to home was important to me. Next, I looked at class size and attitudes toward veterans. I ultimately decided on three schools, but obviously went with Olin!

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school?  I really cannot emphasize how formative my time in Qatar was on my career. Unlike other times in my military career, I was the sole individual making the call for how we supported the bases in Qatar. I always had some direct oversight in other positions, so the weight of my decision-making authority in Qatar was not lost on me. The first time I had to make a definitive decision on my first mission, I really felt how significant a leader’s decision can impact an organization. Luckily, I had some smart advisors, so I made the best decision, but understanding the impact prepared me to conceptualize the values-based, data-driven ethos at WashU Olin.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them?  I may be biased, but I think business students could really learn from the military. The military is very stakeholder focused—it is not a for-profit enterprise and thus has no shareholders to whom it is beholden. Fiscal responsibility is key, but lives are very literally on the line. How do you balance values when loss of life is not an IF option, but a guarantee?



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